Denise Boutte: “It Definitely Takes A Village”

Meet the Browns star Denise Boutte is set to star as Ryan Reed in the UP Original Movie Where’s the Love? Airing Sunday, May 18th at 9 p.m. EST on UP, the movie is about married relationship experts who dole out marriage advice to others on their TV show, but their own marriage is “dysfunctional” behind the camera.

Denise chats with Celebrity Baby Scoop about reuniting with her Meet the Browns co-star Lamman Rucker for the Where’s the Love? film project, how her daughter, Jordan Simone, 3, is doing, and her favorite Mother’s Day traditions. She also shares why breast cancer awareness is one of the “newest and most important platforms” she is advocating for.

CBS: How did you get involved in the “Where’s the Love” film project?  What was it like to reunite with many of your actor family from “Meet the Browns?”

DB: “I worked with these guys at Swirl Films several times before on some other projects. In fact, my first job back after I had my daughter was with Swirl Films. They were located in North Carolina but have since moved to Atlanta, Georgia, because they are building a studio. This is like the fourth project I’ve done with those guys out there and they are just running and gunning; as soon as they are done with one project they have another one overlapping with pre-production, and they are going right to the next one. They are pretty busy! It seems like every time I work I am in Atlanta, so it is like a second home to me now. Those guys have some really awesome things going on with Aspire TV and UP TV.

It was like a reunion! I call Lamman Rucker my second husband, because he is my TV husband. We played husband and wife for like five and a half years, so it kind of honestly and truly was like going back in time. It was like déjà vu. The funny thing is that on Meet the Browns, we had a pretty perfect relationship, but on Where’s the Love?, we are perfect in front of the camera and so dysfunctional behind it. It was so funny being able to play that kind of dynamic! Basically, we have the perfect couple’s persona and we tell everyone how to live their lives and have a healthy marriage, but we can’t do that ourselves.

It was really fun! We had a whole lot of guest stars that came in there and really talented people that I wanted to work with for a long time. We had to have a lot of talk show guests and Atlanta is full of celebs, so we took a lot of local folks from there and they came in and did cameos. We had a really fun roster of folks associated with the project, such as Big Tigger, he’s got a radio show down there, LeToya Luckett, Terri J. Vaughn, David Banner, Angie Stone, Trina Braxton, Shirley Strawberry from the Steve Harvey Show, Tommy Ford, Nicole Eggert…they are all in this movie! It was fun. My mind was swirling around because I was on the couch interviewing these people and calling them different names, so that was really funny. Some of them actually went by their real names and others went by their character names, so it was kind of confusing at times.”

CBS: How easy was it for you to relate to your character, Ryan Reed?  What lessons can married couples learn from her relationship with her husband?  What do you think the downfall in their marriage was?

DB: “You know what, it was really fun! I always thought of myself as maybe becoming an Oprah, so this was like my Oprah moment. When I was in college, I thought I was going to be a news anchorwoman, so this was kind of my relapse into what I thought I was going to be when I was in college. It was awesome to step into that interview chair and play Ryan.

The greatest lesson that married couples could learn is to be real. There are a lot of people out there that I think sensationalize their relationships when they are talking to other people. They might say, ‘Oh my husband does this and that for me’ when their man really does none of that. I think that even if you are going to lie to other people and try to project things out there, you can’t lie to yourself. You have to be open and honest and tell your partner your likes and dislikes and keep it real. If you let things go on for too long, sooner or later you are going to do something you are going to regret, because you are not being truthful and honest. Whenever you are behind closed doors with your partner, open honesty is definitely the policy.

The downfall in their relationship was that they were trying so hard to be the perfect couple, and when they realized that they, themselves, were not perfect, then they shut down. What happens is that my character shuts down so hard that my husband goes looking for love in all the wrong places. My character basically shuts him down and shuts him out. If you don’t deal with those problems and dig down deeper, and instead you just kind of put a Band-Aid on it, then it’s always going to lead to repercussions.”

CBS: How old is Jordan Simone now?  What is she into these days?  What do you like doing together as a family?

DB: “Oh my gosh! She just turned three years old in April, so we took her to Disneyland for the very first time. That was quite interesting because we were not quite sure how she was going to react, because she freaks out with Chuck E. Cheese. Chuck E. Cheese is not her friend. [laughs] We have gone there two times for her birthday party and one time because I wanted to experiment. When she was playing the games, that was one thing, but as soon as Chuck E. Cheese started making his rounds and she saw the animals singing and dancing, it was over. Even when he left she was looking over her shoulder and couldn’t even really enjoy herself anymore.

I thought to myself, ‘Okay, this Disneyland trip could be two hours or it could be twenty, I don’t know what the heck she is going to do but we are going to try.’ When we first got there, she did see the characters, but she was okay with a safe distance. The next thing was that she didn’t like the Merry-Go-Round! She doesn’t like the horses that go up and down. However, she had the most amazing time…Dumbo was her friend and she also drove the cars. With that particular Merry-Go-Round, you could get on it with your kid, so when she was able to ride the horse with my husband, then she was like ‘Oh, I got this!’ I think that is when her guard dropped and she was just gung-ho after that. It was a really awesome time. I’m still not ready to do an actual birthday party that you put on and invite all these guests to. I’m like, oh my gosh that’s too much work, we are just going to go to Disneyland. [laughs]

In regard to hobbies, Jordan likes anything! She always goes, ‘I help you, I help you!’ She loves to help around the kitchen, so if I am chopping something or breaking something, I will give her something that she can break. Of course I am not going to give this little girl a knife. She likes to spread peanut butter on crackers and I let her make her own snacks. I’ll bring her little Fisher Price kitchen in there and give her things that she can play with so she feels like she is cooking something, and she also has her own little special pot that I put on the stove so she feels like she is kind of cooking. I cook the real meal and she feels like she is contributing to a side dish, which we never eat but she doesn’t know the difference. [laughs] So that’s her favorite thing right now. She loves helping, especially in the kitchen.

We all never went to the beach as much as we have since she was born. Living in California, the beach is so accessible that I think we all just take it for granted. However, we can go out there for hours. You get the coverage, bring out the ice chest, she just goes to town. She digs in the sand and we just love it. It’s so relaxing and that’s where I get most of my reading done. If I am studying for something, I can actually catch up while at the beach because she is just out and occupied. It’s the most relaxing thing ever and I’m serious. I did not take advantage of the beach until she was born.”

CBS: What have been some of the biggest rewards of motherhood, biggest challenges?

DB: “I will tell you the truth, the first year for me was really challenging, because I was so used to handling my business on my own. I had been married for years and my husband and I had our rhythm, then all of a sudden I had to figure out how to be myself and juggle a very unpredictable career with this brand new entity that needs a strong foundation. During the first year and a half to two years, it was hard to figure out that balance. It was very important for me to have that time and establish that foundation.

When I am on set, like all day today for 12 plus hours, I make sure to integrate some one on one time with her. In the beginning, that was a very hard thing to do. I feel really good that I had two really dedicated years with her. However, mom needs to work and my passion is also my career. I so commend stay at home moms, because it is not an easy job. Me, personally, I love my career and that’s what fuels my fire. Another thing that I want her to see is that mommy also has a career and I want to show her that you can find balance. Of course, it always changes depending on what you’re doing.

The most rewarding thing, honestly, is that she’s so affectionate. She just turned three and it’s so great when you get those unexpected ‘I love you’s’ or that unexpected hand grab. She also says, ‘Mommy, you’re so sweet!’ all of the time and she loves going to Costco because she loves the samples. I drove up one day and she said, ‘Aww, Mommy, are you taking me to Costco? Mommy, you are so sweet!’ She just melts your heart! Like I said, she is a very affectionate little girl who is very sweet and sensitive. Those are the moments that make it so beyond worth it.

The biggest challenge, first and foremost, was just finding balance. I had to stay true to myself and do what I needed to do to be fulfilled as an individual. I had to have fun and enjoy my husband as a wife. We had so much quality time before and I had to spread the love and show the love to him, her, and myself. Again, it is a very fine juggle depending on where you are in life or career wise. Every day is a challenge, a reworking, and a new ideal of what’s normal. For instance, tomorrow I am flying out on a red eye for work, so it really takes a village. We don’t have any family out here except an aunt and a first cousin, but they live really far away from us. It’s hard to not have any family out here or siblings where you can say ‘Hey, could you take care of Jordan for a little bit?’ You have to figure it out! It definitely takes a village.”

CBS: Summer is just around the corner.  Do you have any special summer plans? 

DB: “We are going to go to our family reunion! Every time I talk about going home, I am not talking about California. We are going to Louisiana for the big family reunion. It is going to be Jordan’s first family reunion, as it is the first one we’ve had since she was born. We are going to head out there in June and that’s the most major event of the summer. I also think my husband and I are going to go over over to Hawaii. I don’t know what part of Hawaii, but we love Hawaii and when we get the chance to steal way somewhere, that’s usually where we go. We are bouncing back and forth between Costa Rica and Hawaii, so we are not quite sure yet.” 

CBS: What is your favorite part about being a Mom?  In what ways do you try to be a good role model for her? 

DB: “Like I said, there is no replacing the purity of the love that you get from your child. It is open, honest, and what they say is unfiltered, so you know if you are doing your job right! They will not candy-coat things and they don’t know how to say things not to hurt your feelings. They don’t know. They say what is on their mind and in their heart. When you get that love, sweetness, or that compliment from this little person who didn’t exist but just a few years ago, I mean, nothing to me replaces that or is more special. It is the most unfiltered, pure love you could ever experience.

I try to be a good role model by showing her that just because you are mom, if you do want to do more than be a stay-at-home mom and you do want to have a career outside of the house, that it is possible. It is not easy, but it is possible. If that is your trajectory in life and your desire, then it is something you can do. You just have to figure it out and it works differently for everyone. I think that my being able to be a mom, a wife, and a career-oriented woman, and take care of myself is a wonderful example for her. We all need different things to fulfill us and our desires are all different. I think, again, being a responsible, working mom who is on time, shows up, and knows her stuff is a wonderful example for her.

It’s so funny, because I don’t know if she even understands what I do for a living. Occasionally, she will see me on TV and say, ‘That’s mommy!’ but she’ll be looking at me like why are you there and you’re here? The funniest thing to me though is that whenever she sees this toothpaste commercial with Shakira in it, she says ‘Mommy, look at you!’ I think to myself, ‘I don’t look like Shakira but that is an amazing compliment so I’m just going to go with it.’ [laughs] I just say, ‘Yes, Jordan, that is Mommy!’ I have no idea what the correlation between Shakira and I is, but she says, ‘Mommy, look mommy!’ and I just say ‘Okay!’” [laughs]

CBS: What are your favorite Mother’s Day traditions?

DB: “Oh, my mom! Now that I don’t live in Louisiana, I make sure that my mom’s Mother’s Day gift is the one gift that I actually get out on time. [laughs] One of my favorite Mother’s Day traditions is with my grandmother. When I was in Louisiana as a little girl, we would all go to her house and the men would actually cook and barbecue for the mothers. I remember that was always something I looked forward to. They would all get flowers and at the church ceremony the night before, they would all bring the moms gifts. I remember it all so vividly as a kid, to the point where I know I have to create those memories for Jordan. Again, when you are a ‘Man in the Land,’ it’s kind of different when all of your family is someplace else. There are ways to do it and we will have to get really creative to make sure that she has those memories also. As long as I get to spend Mother’s Day with Jordan and my husband, I will be perfectly fine.”

CBS: Have you been able to find time to get back into charity work?  How have you been able to motivate moms to dream big and go after their goals, even after becoming a mom? 

DB: “The most I’ve been able to do is through Head Start. My mom worked for them for almost 40 years, and a lot of what I have done is through Head Start. Back home, I do a lot of speaking engagements with the local schools and the churches out there. I talk to them and let them know that just because they come from a small town, it doesn’t mean that they can’t dream big.

One of the other things that is close to my heart now is Breast Cancer Awareness, because my mother is a breast cancer survivor. I am working with an organization out in Louisiana and I am going to be speaking with them in September. My aunt had it, her sister is a survivor, and my mother is a survivor as of two years ago, so it’s something that has repeatedly happened in my family and I’m like why? I now am really on my health and my screenings also because of family history. I would say that Breast Cancer Awareness is one of the newest and most important platforms that I am advocating for.

In regard to how I motivate moms, I would say that I tell them to just be open and honest. A lot of people don’t know that I am a mom because I don’t publicize it and that is more so for privacy reasons. Social media can be so invasive. I am an open book when I am talking one-on-one, but I think social media has a huge effect on this business and on people as individuals, and we still don’t know what social media is and what it is going to morph into in the years to come. It is a personal choice, not to say that other people are wrong, but I don’t really post pictures of my daughter. I don’t know where they are going to end up or where that information is going to be used in the future. That is something that I’ve chosen not to do. When people do know I am a mom and do ask me for advice, I am open to tell them that everyone’s paths are completely different. Do what you know is dear in your heart.

I am a pretty open book and everyone responds to things differently. I am so lucky to be a mom now but the first year and a half was hard. I would be the first person to tell anyone that, but you have to allow yourself to go through your moments and be open and honest in where you are and how it is affecting you, instead of saying ‘I’m alright, I’m alright.’ Yes, but you then become a hermit. You have to be really open and honest with the people around you who you love and trust, because if you just do this alone, it can be a very damaging course.

Or you wake up years down the line after raising your kids and they are moving on and having lives of their own. That is the other scary part about living vicariously or only for your kids. We have them for a time and then they are going to grow up and be out of the house and on their own with their own family and their home. If you don’t do things to fulfill you, you are going to be lost when that time comes. You might look at your mate and be like ‘Who are you?!’ [laughs] The eighteen years have gone by and you just focused on the kids and the relationship has not been maintained or nurtured, so it is easy to wake up almost two decades later and ask what the heck is going on, who am I, and what do I do now?”

CBS: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to share with us? 

DB: “I am so excited to be able to really answer that question! First and foremost, I want everyone to watch Where’s the Love’ on UP TV! UP TV is formerly GMC, Gospel Music Channel. I gave you all of the information about who is associated with that project. Lamman Rucker and I reunite on the screen again and anyone who loves Meet the Browns is going to be very excited to see us back in action.

Another project I am working on right now is called The Choir Director, which was adapted from a book. There are six books that he has adapted into six films, and this is the second of those films. I get to play Simone, and when I tell you ‘scandal in the church,’ I mean scandal in the church! [laughs] Seriously, when my character walks into the church, I just need to drop down and pray because I am not doing anything nice. It’s fun for me, because this is the first time I get to play a bad girl since Why Did I Get Married? This is the second of six series, so it is huge! Being affiliated with this project is amazing and my director who did Where Is The Love? is also directing this.

The next project that actually starts May 12th is called The Bounce Back, and I get to play Shemar Moore’s ex-wife. I have admired Shemar since The Young and the Restless! It is a romantic comedy that is so much fun and my character is not necessarily the comedic part of it, as I am the person who broke his heart.

In this business when you’re ready, you know you’re ready. Once I got the motherhood mind right and was ready to go back, things started happening again and it’s such a blessing. Really exciting things are happening this summer and I am ecstatic to work with such talented casts. The sky is the limit and I am feeling so blessed right now.”

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